April 16, 2009

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

I read The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and i couldn't put it down. It's the story of a young women who is asked to meet with a mysterious dying author with a dark past. (*note this book contains content that some readers may find offensive) It was the writing that captivated me, i just found her to have such a great way with words, here are some of my favourite passages:

1. - There is something about words. In expert hand, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.

2. - People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist.

3. - 'Politeness. Now there's a poor man's virtue if ever there was one. What's so admirable about inoffensiveness, I should like to know? After all, it's easily achieved. One needs no particular talent to be polite. On the contrary, being nice is what's left when you've failed at everything else. People with ambition don't give a damn what other people think about them. I hardly suppose Wagner lost sleep worrying whether he'd hurt someone's feelings. But then he was a genius.'

4. - The young people at the lakeside made a pretty picture from a distance in their summer frocks and white shirts. The glasses they held were filled with a liquid that sparkled in the sunlight and the grass at their feet looked soft enough to go barefoot. In reality, the picnickers were sweltering beneath their clothes, the champagne was warm, and if anyone had thought to take their shoes off they would have had to walk through goose droppings.

5. - I made a resolution to telephone my mother the next day, but it was a safe resolution; no one can hold you to a decision made in the middle of the night.

6. - 'Do you believe in ghosts, Margaret?"
Do I believe in ghosts? What could Isay? I nodded.
Sastisfied, Miss Winter sat back in her chair, and I had the not unfamiliar impression of having given away more than I thought.

7. - But those were private tears, and not for this man. The tears I gratified him with were fake ones. Ones to set off my green eyes the way diamonds set off emeralds. And it worked. If you dazzle a man with green eyes, he will be so hypnotized that he won't notice there is someone inside the eyes spying on him.

8. - 'You are at liberty to say nothing if that is what you want. But silence is not a natural environment for stories. They need words. Without them they grow pale, sicken and die. And then they haunt you.' Her eyes swivelled back to me. 'Believe me, Margaret. I know.'

9. - It was the warmth of her hand that persuaded me she could hear me. It was the warmth in her hand that brought all the words into my chest, falling over each other in their impatience to fly into Emmeline's ear.

10. - 'I am human. Like all humans, I do not remember my birth. By the time we wake up to ourselves, we are little children, and our advent is something that happened an eternity ago, at the beginning of time.'

11. - I should not have been surprised at the extent of Adeline's hatred. I knew how ugly her anger could be, had witnessed the lengths she might go to, I could scarcely believe it.

12. - I feel my heart die. What have I done? Have I...? Is it possible that...?
I cannot bear to know.
I cannot bear not to know.

13. - I did not see the wolf when he came. I did not hear him. There was only this: a little before dawn i became aware of a hush, and I realized that the only breathing to be heard in the room was my own.


  1. I absolutely loved this novel and pushed it on everybody I knew :D

  2. This book sounds interesting, I might just decide to read it!

  3. Thank you for reviewing this! I had seen it reviewed in a magazine and thought WOW, that looks interesting. A must read. But then I forgot the title and authors name. Off to reserve it at our library.

  4. This does look interested...those are definitely some quotes! I've been reading a lot of good books lately, and I can't wait to add this one to the list!


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